Matthew Weiner - Photo by D. Kirkland
"Writers were idolized in my home. My parents had a big poster picture of Ernest Hemingway on a wall in a hallway in our house. I thought I was going to be a poet and that I would find some other profession, teaching or something, to support me. After I graduated from film school at the University of Southern California, it was about 10 years before I got a paying job in the industry, but I never gave myself a time limit. I wrote the pilot episode for Mad Men in 1999 at night while I already had a job, and finally got it produced in 2006. After that wait, it seemed silly to compromise, and luckily AMC made it clear they wanted it on 35 mm film because it would be programmed between classic movies. To me, Mad Men is a series of films. When I write a script, I am telling a story that comes from my heart."
Matthew Weiner is a writer-producer-director whose television credits range from comedies to dramas. He has earned multiple Emmy® Awards and nominations for The Sopranos and Mad Men, and Television Producer of the Year Awards from the Producers Guild of America.
[All these films were shot on Kodak motion picture film.]
A CONVERSATION WITH MATTHEW WEINER
by Bob Fisher
QUESTION: Where were you born?
WEINER: I was born in Baltimore and lived there until I was 11 years old, and then we moved to Los Angeles. I went to public elementary school in Los Angeles for two years, and then to an all-boys high school.
QUESTION: What does your family do?
WEINER: My dad is a research scientist, medical doctor and professor. My mother is a lawyer, but she does not practice.
QUESTION: Were you a photo buff - a still photographer - when you were a kid?
WEINER: I had a camera, but I really loved looking at pictures more than anything. I was always taken with visuals from the very beginning. I gravitated towards photography books. I had a darkroom, when we moved to California. I took a lot of pictures and used the darkroom quite a bit for about five or six years. I inherited the equipment from my aunt and uncle. They were really into photography. They had an enlarger. Half of it was just the thrill of the chemical process, taking a picture and then getting the film into the developer in a dark closet. Once I started making prints, I realized how much control I had. I was actually much better at taking pictures than at printing.
QUESTION: Were you a television or movie fan?
WEINER: Both movies and TV were important to my family, but I was not really allowed to watch TV except for Fridays or Saturdays.
QUESTION: Why was that?
WEINER: My parents thought we should be reading and doing homework on school nights. I was a horrible student, so the first thing that was always taken away was television - even though my parents loved TV. I basically have a black hole in my TV knowledge. I saw no television shows except for on Friday nights - Partridge Family, Brady Bunch - and Saturday nights - Carol Burnett and The Love Boat, etc. - but I missed anything that was on during the week: M.A.S.H., Happy Days and all the other big TV shows of that era. I had to catch up on most of those shows in college, unfortunately for my grades. My parents are political people. There were certain shows we weren't allowed to watch no matter what. I wasn't allowed to watch Gomer Pyle because it glorified the Army, Lucy because it was sexist, The Little Rascals because it was racist, and The Honeymooners because it was too damn loud. It was an early form of political correctness, but TV was very special to me because it was doled out in very small doses. It's still a treat. I've never been a person who gets into a trance watching any kind of television.
QUESTION: How about the cinema?
WEINER: My parents were very into films. The first movie that I remember seeing in the drive-in was Yellow Submarine. It was a double feature playing with Patton.
QUESTION: Drive-ins were great experiences when I was a kid.
WEINER: I loved going to drive-ins, except, when you're the third child, and you are in the back, the speaker is pretty far away and of course of the damn rearview mirror. Fiddler on the Roof is the first movie I remember seeing in a fancy movie theater. We constantly went to see revival films. My parents took us to see The Great Dictator, along with other Chaplin and silent movies that were playing in a repertory theater. I've seen a lot of Harold Lloyd and Buster Keaton, because my dad is such a film buff. Westerns are his favorite, but we went to all kinds of films. When you are 12 years old, and you get a chance to see The Maltese Falcon in the theater, that's going to have an impact on you. There is something else going on in these movies other than just telling a story. I think I saw Casablanca at least 10 times. On Christmas, we would always go to a theater in Beverly Hills that is gone now to see Gone With the Wind. It is four hours long with an intermission and most of the audience spoke the lines along with the actors. When I was in college, I went to study in Spain in 1984 for part of my major. I didn't speak the language and no one there spoke English. I was completely immersed and eventually learned the language, but it was a very melancholy experience in the beginning. I saw movies to cope with being lonely. I went to see The Sound of Music there. They dubbed the words, even in the songs. There were two movies showing in English in a museum. One of them was Purple Rain and the other one was Easy Rider. I saw both of those movies every week. They were my touchstone, because phone calls cost a fortune. Movies were how I dealt with being homesick more than anything.
QUESTION: Where did you go to school?
WEINER: I went to Wesleyan University. It has a big film program, but my father - being an educator - did not consider that to be an academic major, so I was not allowed to be in the film program. I did a lot of acting, but I was in a special Great Books program with philosophy, literature and history mixed together. Part of it was going abroad and learning how to read and write in a foreign language.
QUESTION: So, that's why you went to school in Spain?
WEINER: That's why I went to Spain.
QUESTION: Did you know at that point what you wanted to do with your life?
WEINER: I wanted to be a writer, since I was a really little boy. Writers were idolized in my home. There was a big poster of Ernest Hemingway in our house. It was a big photo from MOMA. We also had a big picture of Moshe Dayan, so I guess I could have been a solider. I thought I was going to be a poet, and that I would find some other profession, teaching or something like that to support myself. My parents were terrified that I would be a part-time actor and a waiter the rest of the time.
QUESTION: What was terrifying about you wanting to be a writer?WEINER: The popular mythology was that talent and drive had nothing to do with it. You needed to know somebody to get a foot in the door. It's also true that your chances of succeeding are very low when you're an aspiring novelist or poet. My parents were very pleased that I got into film school, because it was like having a relative in the film business. The question was, why would you strive to be in a profession when you could be really good and not make it? The truth is that I am a tenacious person. I've learned that tenacity is a common part of the personalities of successful writers whom I have met. Now, maybe because I have had some success, I can say that the struggling for the 10 years or so before I got a paying job, made me a better writer. It was very clear in my mind that I was not going to set a time limit on myself. I had role models. I wouldn't say they were mentors, because I didn't know them. I would read about people's lives all the time, and see how long it took them, whether it was the Beatles who played together for eight years before they hit it big, or Stanley Kubrick who was also a terrible student with a physician father. When The Sopranos came on television, I found out that (creator) David Chase was 55 years old and I was already 32 years old, but it helped to know to not put a time limit on myself. I was prepared to struggle to the end.
QUESTION: Why did you choose to go to film school at USC when you came home from Spain?WEINER: USC is definitely renowned as one of the best film schools in the world. The other thing was that my father was on the faculty of the medical school, and that meant I went for free. It also meant I was coming home. I was not a film major. I wanted to be a writer. My father was very influential in making sure that my application was seen by important people. I don't know if that got me in, but I definitely had a leg up.
QUESTION: Are there people you met at USC whom you subsequently worked with later?
WEINER: I've worked with so many people from there that I don't even keep track of it. I have met people who went to USC during the era before I did who made it in television.
QUESTION: Were there instructors there who influenced you?
WEINER: Absolutely. You know, being a writer, the closest thing in production to writing is editing. I had a wonderful editing teacher named Arnold Baker. Also, Frank Daniel, dean of the film school, taught a class where he would show a film. Then, he would take a break, show it again, and explain it over a microphone as it was happening. That was the best writing class I ever had. That's where I saw The Apartment for the first time. He really influenced me in a non-formulaic way by explaining what tools a writer could use in cinema. I realized that everything I liked about both watching movies and making movies were those visual moments where there is nonverbal communications. Think of what you can learn by looking at the human face. There are those elements and also the real cinematic elements of seeing objects and people in their environments. You see a movie like The Conformist and say, 'It feels as if it's happening' - the storytelling, the incredible dialogue that was adapted from a spectacular novel, and then all the filmmaking that went into it, including performances, and how it was edited. It was very exciting to take these things apart and realize how much thought went into every aspect of great storytelling. That was very exciting to me.
QUESTION: Are you an auteur or do you think of filmmaking as collaborative art?WEINER: I am completely collaborative. As a writer, you start by trying to understand the issues of authorship, because there's nothing without the writing. Then you get into directing, and start to see what that job is about. I think that what really happens, whether it's the writer, director, producer, or sometimes the actor, there is a force of personality that's going to be expressed. What really works is when every person at every level, whether it's out of fear or inspiration, is trying to tell the same story. The Hearts of Darkness documentary about the making of Apocalypse Now tells how a painful experience resulted in the making of a wonderful film with every single person functioning to tell the story from the inside out. I wrote a paper about a screenwriter named Jules Furthman, who wrote four or five signature movies for four or five different directors. He wrote for Howard Hawks and Joseph von Sternberg and, I think, William Wyler. I think you start to see cohesion in his work, and what he's trying to say. All I know is that every movie is different. There is an impression, even to this day, when people talk about my work, and I'm literally telling them, I didn't do that part of it … or, when they say, 'I loved what he did,' and I say, 'I actually did that part.' The truth is that filmmaking is totally collaborative. That's confusing to people. Part of it is marketing. You need to have Steven Spielberg's name on a film to sell it. I think a successful piece of art in the film business involves every single person who worked on it. One more thing about collaboration … everyone who has ever worked with me will tell you my philosophy is I don't know how to do your job. There's no way that I'm going to tell a cinematographer how to do his/her job. All I can tell them is what I want it to be, and let them ask questions. I can be incredibly critical when it comes in, of course, because I'm like that (laughs) … and I work with these perfectionists. Even if they get 99 percent right, if you're a perfectionist, you're always in a state of failing. As a writer, I'm going to speak to you in the language of emotion and from my heart, and then you're going to find a way to express it and that's the best part of the collaboration … that's when it really works … that's when no one gets confused and thrown off his/her game.
QUESTION: What did you do when you got out of school?
WEINER: I made a documentary at USC about paparazzi that was very funny. I got married, went on my honeymoon, came home and went to the screening. The film got a storybook explosion of attention. I'm not saying the film was great, but the night that it screened it got more attention than anybody else's project, because it's much easier to tell a 20-minute story in a documentary.
QUESTION: How did you get started after graduating from USC?WEINER: I met people everywhere and pitched ideas that I had for films that were very arty, very much like I still do. That was in 1991. I would go to these meetings and talk about The Godfather, and they would act like it was an art movie. I didn't understand what the marketplace was about. I didn't understand what they wanted, so I spent the next two years writing, while my wife supported us. The only money I made was being a contestant on Jeopardy.
QUESTION: What did you write? WEINER: I wrote a screenplay that was optioned for free by a somewhat nefarious producer. He dragged me along by my heels for six months before I realized it wasn't going to happen. I woke up one morning, had a conversation with my wife, and said: I'm going to make my own movie with everything we have: my car, our house, you, me and my friends from film school. I'll rent equipment. I'll find somebody who has produced one of these films and get a real cinematographer. I'll try and do it with no crew. I went out and shot it all on video first, because it involved a lot of real people. I was sort of modeling it on comedies that I admired. I admired Albert Brooks and Woody Allen, but I wanted to do a comic Cassavetes movie with real people in it. As soon as I finished it, we went on a $319 vacation to Paris, which was never a lot of money. After we came back home, I got a job working on A&E Biography and used all of their vendors to finish my film. I was transformed by that experience. I went from feeling powerless about what was going to happen to me, and waiting for the phone to ring, to taking control of my life.
QUESTION: What was your movie about?
WEINER: It was semi-autobiographical. It's about a writer that sat at home waiting for the phone to ring. He had secretly given up writing for gambling. It's called What Do You Do All Day? I knew that I probably would never sell the film, but I thought knowing people from film school who had gotten features off 10-minute films that this was going to be my entrée. The real thing was that I had a different level of confidence. I had done my own thing, and expressed myself. It was comedy, which was not something that I'd been doing. Even though I had been a stand-up comic, I had rejected comedy writing, because I was home and out of work. It just got more and more depressing, and I started writing more depressing things.
QUESTION: You did stand-up comedy?
WEINER: I did stand-up comedy in college, briefly.
QUESTION: How did you get your first job in the industry?
WEINER: There was a confluence of events, some kind of synchronicity or whatever, but a friend of mine from college had made an independent film, which succeeded. Her name is Daisy von Scherler Mayer. I loved the movie. It's called Party Girl. It was turned into a sitcom. She called me up and asked me to help write jokes. All of a sudden I was sitting in this room with all these professional comedy writers. After the first night, the show runner said, 'I will give you $600 if you will come back every day until we can shoot the pilot.' In the meantime, I was having a screening of my film that I paid for out of pocket. Two weeks later the show got picked up and I was working in television. I had never written a TV script before, but I was good at telling jokes. When that show got cancelled, I sat down and immediately wrote two spec comedy scripts. I got my second job from Michael Saltzman who heard that I was really funny. He took me to lunch and we became friends. He got a show and put me to work on The Naked Truth. The second job is really hard to get. Did you notice you are not hearing the word agent? Shows were getting cancelled all the time. I went from one half-hour comedy to another until I landed on Becker. Network television was like being a baseball player getting called up to the major leagues. There are only about 300 people in this country who get to do this job. I liked comedy, but I didn't want to work in a factory selling pilots. I kept telling myself, 'Don't lose sight of what you want to do. You want to have your own show. You want to do your own movies. There are all these incredibly talented film directors who had started in television that I admired - most importantly Woody Allen.'
QUESTION: What was the genesis of Mad Men?
WEINER: I wrote the script for Mad Men in 1999 just as The Sopranos went on the air. It was an incredible model for me because it was so artistically sophisticated, but also a mainstream success.
QUESTION: When and how did you get to work on The Sopranos?
WEINER: I finished the Mad Men pilot script and continued to work in comedy, but could not get anybody interested in it. Whenever I met a writer after working with them for a while, I would give them the script. I was with the same agency as David Chase and Alan Ball. I asked my agent, 'Can you just give them my script and see if they'll take it to HBO and be my godfather or whatever?' They wouldn't give it to Alan Ball, but after some pressure, internally at the agency, they got it to David Chase's agent. He loved it, and two days later he gave it to David. He called me literally a weekend after that. A week later I was on The Sopranos. I ended up working there for three seasons, which took four-and-a-half years.
QUESTION: What was that experience like?
WEINER: That was an amazing experience because David Chase is a real artist who believes in himself. He has a lot of wisdom from being in show business for 30 years. He is completely reactive to what he considers to be the worst parts of television, and he's always trying to overcome them. He knows in his gut what works. I got to work with him and to see him trying to top himself week after week.
QUESTION: What did you learn from that experience?
WEINER: I learned to trust myself. I learned: let's boil it down to what it really is. The fact that David Chase thought I was a good writer made me a better writer. I admired the man a great deal, and I wanted to please him. I took the show very seriously, and I took all of the problems of the show on myself. I learned to immerse myself and to never give up or take the easy way out. I learned to push myself and also to trust the audience. David had tremendous faith in the audience. He was uncompromising in every detail, and completely involved.
QUESTION: What was the inspiration for Mad Men?
WEINER: The more I think about it the earlier I remember being interested in the story. Being raised in the '80s, we looked back on the '50s with contempt and superiority, but also as a kind of Golden Age of the United States. For liberals like my parents, it was a time when everyone was expected to aspire to be educated, interested in art, open-minded and constantly in the transformation of becoming a better person. That was what America was about and that was what I was raised to be. My father was an inner city doctor who wanted to take care of poor people. He told me that the book "Arrowsmith" by Sinclair Lewis inspired him. Just the fact that my father could say that his career had been derived from reading a book, and that I was supposed to learn who Sinclair Lewis was, all of that informed the concept for Mad Men. There are groups of people who want to control everything. They are incapable of allowing any of us to think for ourselves. Subtlety and irony is forbidden. They are there on the left and the right. They do it for different reasons, and everybody thinks they are doing the right thing, but it is extremely restricting and to me it's un-American and anti-intellectual. I wanted to express that in some way, and then, of course, I wanted to express something very deeply personal. I was 35 years old and had gotten everything I wanted - a beautiful wife and three children whom I love, and a home, and yet I was asking myself, why is this not satisfying to me? Why do I feel like I'm still 18 on the inside? That's when I started digging into the period when Mad Men happens. Even in high school, I could look at the movie Woodstock and say, 'How could anyone be at a concert with that many people all doing the same thing and think it's about individualism?' It obviously was a style. I'm not demeaning it, because it is a style about something fantastic, but it is a style with so much virtue associated with it, especially because we were living in an environment where the former lefty SDS guy turned into a greedy, killer capitalist. There was a big joke about the guy who smoked dope and graduated from Berkeley who is now running the biggest corporation in the world that makes land mines that look like toys. I wanted to cry bullshit on that. We've seen massive social change that the boomers were holding up as the re-invention of the wheel. How many people know that free love and drugs and everything bohemian, that we associate with the '60s, happened in the '30s? And then the economy tanked. Look at Roosevelt. We had a president interested in social improvement. That was interesting to me.
QUESTION: Are the characters in Mad Men based on people you know or invented?WEINER: This sounds embarrassing, but there are aspects of my personality in each character. The characters are conglomerations of many. There's a hero, there's a heroine, a protagonist and the villain. They are also some amalgamation of people I know. My parents figure heavily into a lot of these things, and my siblings, my wife and children. They are facets of my personality.
QUESTION: How did you put together a team to produce Mad Men?
WEINER: I cheated on the pilot, because I took everybody from The Sopranos whom I'd worked with and used them. They were people whose work I admired and whom I could convince to do it. We did it during a hiatus on The Sopranos, between the sixth and seventh season. Two important relationships came out of that - one was with (cinematographer) Phil Abraham (ASC), and the other one was with Scott Hornbacher, who had been a producer on The Sopranos. I always call him my creative partner. He directed this year. He was the first person whom I've met with that job who was not a money cop. When he tells me that I can't afford something and maybe I should do it like X or Y, I never worry about it being about money. I always know he is serving the story, and that is an incredible place to be. I always play ball money-wise unless I think it will kill the show … then, I will always ask, 'Is there another way to do this?' Phil shot the first five episodes. I tried to take all of those people to Los Angeles with me, because I knew I was going home, and that's where I wanted to do the show. I fought very hard to get it in Los Angeles. No one wanted to do it there, because there was no tax break. We tried to explain to them about the pool of actors, and about the fact that that's where I lived, and I wasn't going to do the show and not live at home. I wasn't willing to do that. In fact, I sold this to them for so little that I got to decide where it was shot. If you are willing to compromise on money, you will get to achieve your dreams. You really can.
QUESTION: How did you make the connection with AMC? They are a movie channel. AMC didn't program TV shows before Mad Men.WEINER: No, this was their first TV show. They were in the midst of making a miniseries at that time. Someone gave them my script. I believe it was my manager. They loved the script. It had been rejected everywhere. I think it was considered old, a period piece, which I never understood. It was like I pulled it out of somebody's garbage pail as far as other studios were concerned. People were very hard on me about it. After we got a green light from AMC, my friends were saying, 'It's such a great show; it's a shame no one is going to see it.' Making the pilot was the most creatively satisfying experience that I've had in my life. I was in a dream state.
QUESTION: Can you share your memories of that feeling?
WEINER: Why did I feel that way? I had written it five years earlier and thought that it would never get made. I had this incredible team of artists. I can't even explain to you what happens in your brain when you see a physical, three dimensional representation of something that was in your head. I'm not lying to you. It was exactly the way I wanted it to look. I mean exactly. I don't know how that happened. I had images of Don Draper in my mind when I was writing. It was an amorphous thing. I would ask people: who would you cast? I envisioned a guy who had James Garner's comic chops and Gregory Peck's stature. I won every battle, but there really weren't a lot of them. They were very good to me. It was a dream come true. I was doing something that I thought was a show I would want to see. I'm not saying no one had ever done this before, but certainly if you work for the network or even watch TV, and checked off the things that you thought you wanted in a TV show, it had none of them (laughs). … But, I always thought it was very entertaining and funny, and it had a lot of tension … you never know what was going to happen next.
QUESTION: Does the fact AMC is a movie channel affect how Mad Men is produced?
WEINER: No, it doesn't, but they made sure I shot on film. They really did not want an HD program sandwiched in-between movies. That was a relief, because I always wanted to produce it on film.
QUESTION: Why did you want to produce Mad Men on film?WEINER: It's the aesthetics. I've now come to realize, and I think that they proved this technologically, that a sampling of the world that goes on in film at 24 frames per second has been perfected to produce a lifelike experience, the way that you would see it with your eyes. There's nothing that competes with it. I can tell the difference, and until I can't tell the difference (between film and video), I will stay with film. Also, I don't think the great cinematographers are comfortable working with video. They don't get the looks and blacks they want. There is rigidness to working in video, maybe because it doesn't have the chemical elements. It's just not the same thing. When I shot my $10,000 movie, I shot it on (KODAK) Plus-X and Tri-X 16 mm film. Working with film made a huge difference.
QUESTION: When you're writing scripts are you seeing images in your head?
WEINER: Yes. I am seeing images in my head. I am seeing where people are sitting. I am seeing them exchanging glances, what doors they are coming in and out of. I'm very specific about all that stuff when I'm writing because I try to use every part of it to be meaningful. I try and use it to create tension and use it to jar the audience into paying attention. I want to keep them on their feet and entertained. It's like being a magician, and getting the audience to look over there, and then telling them, look what happened here while you were looking over there.
QUESTION: How do you choose your cinematographer?
WEINER: Honestly, Scott Hornbacher has really been the expert on that for me. He has suggested talented people, and I choose them. It's tough. I chose Phil Abraham because I worked with him before. I had seen his work and knew he had a great eye and that he's fast, which is very important. I knew he was decisive, although I didn't know how much of an artist he was until he started directing for us. That's when I really saw his point of view. Every other person has come to me through Scott. When he gave me Chris Manley's reel I could see he was great and that he would be comfortable working in the vernacular of the show. He also had those other qualities - a deep soul, visual sophistication, and guts. We need someone that has guts for that job because I'm constantly fighting to make the show dirtier, grittier, and grimier.
WEINER: I'm trying to avoid abstraction. I think that when you're doing period films, you don't want to give people another element to push them away from the story. You want them to feel like it's happening to them. We weren't there, but you feel like you're in it. I think that's because of the fact that there is natural sound, and you see the feelings and behavior of people who have their collars sticking slightly out of their shirts. They have dirt on their faces, dirty fingernails, rips and sweat stains on their clothing. It requires extra dirt and extra messiness to achieve that on camera, because the camera cleans everything up. I learned that in film school … trying to shoot a car that had been in the mud and realizing that it didn't read at all. I look at Terry Gilliam's films, and think: how dirty must that person be to look that dirty on camera?
QUESTION: What else do you look for in a cinematographer?
WEINER: There is a personality factor after you look at their reel and see how visually sophisticated they are. I want to hear who their influences are and what they are interested in doing. When I meet them, I am asking myself: is this someone whom I can have an artistic conversation with? Do they have the same visual references that I have, or other references that are interesting? I want someone who is really excited about Mad Men, and who will really push him or herself. When I was working on The Sopranos, I was like a student. I stood next to the director and watched everything they did. I was there as a writer guarding the script, and making sure it was expressed properly. I remember one time when we were shooting the pork store, I said to Phil, 'I'm going to guess that you have shot scenes on this set close to 60 times.' He said, 'Yeah, probably.' Then, I asked him why it was taking so long. He said, 'It's not a science. I don't just press a number on a keyboard.' There's the expression of the scene. It's not a play. We have to deal with a lot of things. I take that very seriously, especially with cinematography.
QUESTION: You have been directing episodes of Mad Men. Why did you want to direct, and what lessons has that experience taught you?WEINER: I fought to direct the pilot. I had no experience, and it was probably better that I didn't, but I've always wanted to direct my own work. I don't think that my directing experience is related to anyone else's unless they also write the scripts. I love having a chance to physically express exactly what I see in my head, but I am also discovering things when I'm out there on the set. I love hearing the actors speak my words. I love my cast and all of the departments. I know everybody's name because I love working with them. I love seeing the machine work.
QUESTION: Do you think Mad Men is more than just entertainment?WEINER: My goal is to be entertaining, but I don't know why anyone should be embarrassed to say that what they are doing is more than entertainment. It's a touchy question, like do I think it's art? I can tell you that I'm trying to make it into art, but how do you define that? I watch The Simpsons with my children and we laugh at different things, because there is something in it for everybody. I learned that from The Sopranos. Some people who watched the show were just there to drink blood. It had nothing to do with their intelligence or their education or anything. Some people watched The Sopranos, because it helped them reflect on their lives. Some people watched it as a soap opera. And, other people had different reasons. I studied art history in high school, and learned that art has different functions: what art can do and how it is relevant in its period. Art can also be transhistorical, which means it's relevant in more than one period, and it can be meta-historical, which means it has nothing to do with any period. We are living in a world where we are very judgmental. Maybe we have always been this way, but it's very hard on the realities of being a human being. I hope Mad Men comes across as nonjudgmental. To answer your question, art can also be entertaining.
QUESTION: Mad Men is in syndication in other countries. Are you getting feedback from people in different cultures?
WEINER: I went on an online poker room when I was procrastinating one night, and found myself in an online poker game with people in Turkey whose screen names were Don Draper One and Don Draper Two. I also heard from people in Great Britain right away, and have seen press from Sweden and Israel, but I haven't gotten enough feedback, probably because I am working all the time. We are about to go into syndication in Japan. I think they are going to go nuts over Mad Men. When I was growing up during the 1980s, the Japanese aesthetic and mine were sort of interlaced. I know they have a cultural affinity for the period, so I'm curious to see how they feel about it.
QUESTION: Like you said, Mad Men is entertainment and art, but it is also a reflection of history. How do you feel about the need to archive television programs?WEINER: I assume everything is archived. I still see Father Knows Best on television, and I have all the Abbott and Costello films on DVDs. They are archiving them for financial reasons, but there is more to it than that. We had a commercial in one episode with Jackie Kennedy speaking in Spanish for Spanish voters. I know it was made during the campaign. No one has ever been able to tell me when it was shot or when it aired.
QUESTION: What do you tell aspiring filmmakers when they ask you for advice?
WEINER: I have a lot of people asking me for advice. I tell them the few things that the character builders that I had in my life told me. I tell them don't put a time limit on your dreams, and don't give up, especially if you want to be a writer. It's free, just keep writing. You can achieve your dreams if you keep working at it. If you hear about someone who sold a script when they were 22, chances are they have been working on it since they were 10. Don't react to the marketplace. Write about things you care about rather than what the current trends are, and always remember, you are competing with people who are writing from their hearts.